Voice search: it’s simultaneously excited and struck fear into the hearts of marketers everywhere. You know those nifty smart speakers that first hit the market in 2016? Well, slowly but surely, they’re changing the way we search the internet. Don’t believe us? When was the last time you just said “voice search definition” to your Google Home rather than asking it the full question “what is the definition of voice search”?
It may seem like a tiny inconsequential change, but actually, it means the way that we utilise search is shifting towards a more conversational style. This has a massive effect on what users come to expect when searching, which changes their expectations of us as marketers.
So what’s the big deal?
The main concern with voice search is that it will shake up SEO in a big way. With more people using voice commands to instruct their smart assistants to trawl through search results, the less people are actually viewing them and seeing all those Pay Per Click ads we’ve slaved away over. Thanks a lot Alexa.
Just to blow your mind that little bit more, ask yourself: when was the last time you actually heard an ad while using voice search? Let’s just forget about Google Home’s Beauty and the Beast debacle – turns out people don’t want to sit there listening to ads before they get the answer to their question, let alone read them.
This is down to the fact that pages as we know them, don’t really exist in voice search. Alexa and her squad just pick the most contextually relevant result, usually from Google’s super voice search friendly snippets. You could say that we’re transitioning away from ‘keywords’ as we know them altogether, which is a pretty scary concept to SEOs who have relied on keywords as a basic pillar of their strategies.
What can we do about it?
Such a massive change to the way we search is actually a good thing. See, Google’s Hummingbird update was a clear indication that it doesn’t just want to index search results, it wants to actually understand them. And that means it’s asking a little more from us content creators to be able to do that effectively.
In short, you’ve got to go with the flow rather than try to move against the tide – here’s how you can adapt your strategy to keep up:
It’s all semantics
Search intent is emerging as more important than keywords where providing the best service is concerned. For instance, search engines, by way of personal assistant apps, have learned to build the scenario in which we search for queries. Google is starting to understand the relationships between words and what context they are used in to deliver the most accurate result possible.
So if we were to look up ‘recruitment agencies in Birmingham’, Google will begin to ask itself who the person searching is in order to be able to give them the answers they want.
Is this person just doing some market research and looking for a list of recruiters in the area or are they actually after directions to the nearest one? Are they a candidate looking for a job or are they a client looking to fill vacancies?
It can easily hazard a guess of what the user is specifically looking for based on any of its 57 signals to filter down – such as search history, location, device and time of day.
Start the conversation
If Google wants a conversation, you give it the best conversation it’s ever had. How? We need to stop relying so heavily on keywords and instead focus that energy on creating content that clearly and succinctly answers a common query early on the page before diving into the specifics.
Rather than creating micro-content around meta data, we’ve got to start thinking more broadly about what our consumers will want to read about. Think comprehensive guides rich with answers to multiple questions your audience may have rather than short pieces that only hit one specific term.
Remarket, remarket, remarket
The dangers of voice search are that you’re not being seen by as many people due less people actually viewing ads. If you’re at risk of losing customers to voice search, you’ve got to find a way to fix that. Maybe the trick isn’t necessarily in acquiring new customers, but rather keeping your existing ones. Focusing more on retention and remarketing to your existing visitors might just be the ticket to better conversions.
The good news is that repeat purchases using Alexa and the smart assistant crew are extremely high, mostly because it’s so easy to just ask them to buy more cat food once it knows which brand you like and how often you tend to run out. Since Siri and Cortana get to recognise your voice, syntax and browsing habits thanks to natural language processing, it makes repeat purchases a piece of cake.
Once you’re in with a voice search user, you’re in for the long haul – so make sure you have a remarketing tag on your site so you can segment your visitors and personalise away.
Obviously there are a lot of uncertainties still in the realm of voice search, and we’re still yet to discover everything that it can do. One thing is for certain though, we are on the cusp of something really exciting. Search engines are getting smarter year on year, which means us marketers have to get smarter too, we don’t know about you but we’re definitely up to the challenge. Game on, Alexa.